The political scene in Israel is almost as divisive as that of the United States, but last month legislators across the ideological spectrum came together and voted unanimously to outlaw the declawing of cats.
Not only did the Knesset (parliament) vote to ban the surgery, they imposed stiff penalties for violators including a fine of about $20,000 US and up to a year in prison.
Israel joins Australia, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands, German, Switzerland, and Austria in the community of nations that officially outlaw declawing or consider it inhumane.
Although several cities in California have banned declawing, the surgery is entirely too common in the United States, where an estimated 25 percent of cats are declawed.
Why is declawing so popular in the U.S.? I think it has a lot to do with a lack of understanding. The term calls to mind a simple and permanent snipping of the toenails and certainly doesn’t make anybody think of the reality of the surgery — an amputation of the end joints of all the cat’s toes.
I’ve seen this ignorance in action. A few years ago I was in my office with a couple of other people. One of them mentioned that her daughter wanted to get a cat, but she was concerned that it would wreck her expensive leather furniture. The other person told her, “Well, don’t worry, you can just have its claws taken out.”
My eyes went wide. I took a deep breath and tried my best not to rise up in righteous rage — after all, people don’t respond well to opinions expressed in anger — and said, “You could do that, but before you do, you should know what declawing really involves.” I calmly described the procedure and told her that most shelters in the area won’t adopt cats out to people who plan to have them declawed.
The woman said, “Really?”
I explained that scratching is a natural behavior and there are plenty of ways to train a cat to scratch on appropriate surfaces.
The man said, “Well, my cat’s declawed and he’s just fine.”
Contrast that with another one of my good friends who, on the advice of her veterinarian, had her cat declawed and spayed at the same time. This cat was 17 at the time and, fortunately, had adapted to life with amputated toes and not developed any behavior problems. “If I’d known back then what declawing really is, I’d never have had it done,” she told me.
I like to think that my friend’s reaction is much more common than the careless, throwaway “advice” from the man at my office.
If we can’t get declawing banned in the United States, maybe by telling the truth about declawing — in a reasonable tone and without guilt-tripping or being judgmental — we can bring that 25 percent down to zero percent, one cat at a time.
And as more countries and advocacy groups join the call to ban declawing, maybe the United States will be next to take an official stance on outlawing this grisly surgery.